“It takes a great deal of strength to choose weakness.”
Alicia Britt Chole (40 Days of Decrease)
As far as we know, Jesus' first solitary journey into the wilderness was just after his baptism by John, during which he'd heard the voice of God say, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Then, we're told, the spirit led him up into the wilderness where he fasted and prayed for forty days. During that time, Jesus was offered by Satan the three things that humans most desire—supernatural ability (turn these stones into bread), privilege (if you're the chosen one, throw yourself down; the angels will bear you up) and power (all this I will give to you if you bow down and worship me). Debilitated, weak from fasting, he found the strength to decline the offer. In that act, he discovered that his greatest strength arose out of weakness. Jesus later told his followers, “I tell you don't resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the left as well.” He seemed to be saying, “Claim you weakness—because in it lies your strength.”
The annual Lenten journey through these forty days before Easter is supposed to be our time for facing our weaknesses—for finding their strength, and resisting the temptations presented by the shiny objects and sweet-meats of this world. I think the most difficult of these temptations is not to retaliate when we feel we've been wronged. Speaking for myself, of course; everything in my primitive brain wants to hit back.
The clamor for so-called “strong” action is loud these days. Many of us have reverted to the chest-thumping behavior of our gorilla cousins. But the allure of violent retaliation is a false sign-post, drawing humanity into a quagmire of punch and counter-punch. It goes nowhere. There are no winners, only losers.
The wilderness journey may seem like a frightening one—who knows what might be lurking there. It could be dangerous. But at some point in life, we each enter the lonely desert—led there by the losses, the desertions, the diagnoses, the addictions. The question remains, will we find our greatest strength in our weakest moments? Will we give ourselves the freedom to not slap back? Will we allow the words of Jesus to penetrate our reality? “If anyone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two.” (Matt. 5:41)
In the Spirit,